For my first post, I wanted to write about a topic I was discussing with a client recently--trade shows. I am not saying that I am an expert on them, but I have attended well over 100 shows over the past decade. I've been part of small CPCU vendor fairs all the way to the elaborate CES and RIMS expos.
One current and consistent theme among all of them is that a $5.00 20 gallon waste paper bucket still cost about $20.00 a day, and a $25.00 chair is still around $50.00 to rent. With today’s economic struggles, it is difficult to justify many of these shows because of the obvious cost as well as current attendance.
There are many shows to review each year to try and decide which ones will be the most beneficial when you weigh cost versus business. Certain shows attendance is necessary only to keep current with current customer base and not to be outdone by your competitor. Other shows are more viable for gaining new leads and contacts in the hope it will all add up to more business. I have been in the insurance claim servicing side for over 20 years and there were years where firms I worked for would do close to 40+ shows a year...with an average cost well in excess of $10K. This does not include staffing for the show, flights/hotels/food and entertainment…add another 10K for that.
In better economic times the number and cost of these shows was irrelevant as long as it produced quality leads and kept us current with our market share. Everything is dependent however on the amount of quality prospects that attend these shows. Today companies are sending fewer representatives to these trade shows or not even attending them at all. What does that mean for the vendors that are shelling out $10K Plus each and every time? It means they are taking a hard look at whether to attend at all.
Companies are turning to alternative and creative means to get their products and services recognized, often turning their backs on trade shows. Many of these are Internet-based and very inexpensive--and you are able to specifically reach your target audience. According to Trade Show Week (3/23/09) “Not only is attendance dropping at some of the country’s largest shows, but also the number of exhibiting companies is diminished--some for economic reasons, others because of new company strategies.”
With this said, I do not foresee the demise of trade shows, instead I think it's the beginning of a new corporate culture concerning these shows. Instead of just saying yes/no to participate in certain shows, more homework will need to be done on what shows truly bring the best results. Same old, same old doesn't cut it.
Trade shows will always have a place in the business world, but the shows themselves need to do their part to make it more affordable. The shows that change and react to the times will do very well. Those that do not will continue to see declines in attendance. I personally would like to see a few chairs and a trash can be included with every exhibit space from now on…think of it as a trade show stimulus package!